1106 Tasting Notes
Season’s Greetings, Steepsterites!
We have returned from spending a few days at my parents’ house over Christmas and my father’s birthday on boxing day, so we’re a bit whacked. Dinner has been ordered and we’re just winding down from all the social, and me, I’m trying not to think too much about the fact that I have to work tomorrow. Christmas was relatively good, and ‘relatively’ has something to do with some bad news we got regarding the health situation of a family member. Not unexpected, but bad all the same.
Yeah, we got totally behind on the 52teas christmas box, but I’ve opened them all on their appropriate days, so at least I know what’s coming. I have decided, however, that it’s cheating to drink them out of order. We’ll do it in our own time, I think.
Right now, we’re having the second steep of this tea which my parents in law sent me for Christmas. Or rather, it’s from Max the Cat who owns my parents in law. Max the Cat appears to have more tea-fu than we had previously given him credit for. Unlike my mother who has run out of the good bags that I’ve provided her with and tried to buy something that was a better quality than your average Lipton or Pickwick. What she ended up with were bags of a different brand, yes, but containing unflavoured rooibos, which I don’t like, or a questionable sencha. Bless. Well, she tried. I shall have to make sure to restock the supply up there for the next time we go up.
Now, this one from Max the Cat. Not only is it a very non-traditional choice of tea for them, it’s also loose leaf! I expect my mother-in-law must have had help in the shop or something, because I would be highly surprised if either of them have ever even tasted this type of tea.
Blissful Blends is one of those wellness shops that sells ayurvedic body care products and aromatic oils and what have you, so their selection of tea is likely highly limited. I found a link to their ebay store and that one didn’t even have any tea on it at all. Probably all you pu-erh conneiseurs out there would turn your nose up at the quality of this one, but me, I’m highly pleased with it.
When receiving tea as a gift, people seem to have a tendency to have chosen things that are known dislikes, so for this one not to be was a bit of fresh air. Also, it falls on a dry spot, as I’m trying to limit frivolous purchases as much as I can these days. (We also each got some money from my grandparents which we have decided ought be used on frivolity as they are gift-money. Some of mine will likely be exchanged for tea. We’ll see. It’s hard to decide what to buy with them) So at this point, brand new tea is the awesomest stuff!
I can’t make much comment on the first cup as it was had shortly after we came home, and I was in bad need of some tea, some warmth and some kitteh, so it disappeared rather quickly without too much in the way of paying attention.
This time, however, I can report that it smells quite barn-y and kind of sweet. Something akin to honey, but not really. Otherwise it’s pretty much a default pu-erh smell.
Same goes for the flavour. There’s a slightly tart, fruity start to the sip. Something berry-y, I think. Then it gets that earthy pu-erh flavour and finishes on a sweet note, which is not really honey, but not really caramel either. Something sort of in between.
All in all, it strikes me as pretty mild in flavour, and if I had to make tea for someone who had never had pu-erh before, I would hesitate to give them a cup of this, with the information that they can get a LOT stronger than this one is.
I’ve made it Western style this evening, but I shall have to try and short steep it as well eventually. I suspect it won’t come off as quite so mild and friendly in those circumstances. I would be nice if I could get it to show a little more teeth.
But right now? Being tired, cold and hungry? It’s made of liquid diamond and fairy dust.
This one seems to be extremely popular. Very hyped on Steepster indeed, and I seem to recall there being some sort of a petition to have it made permanent. I’m sure I saw that, and I believe it was about this one.
So I was fairly certain all along that it was bound to be in the box somewhere. And lo, I was proven right.
I have to say though, that I don’t really understand the hype. To me this both tasted and smelled rather like toothpaste. With marshmallows in.
For me the spearmint was almost the only thing I could taste. I could detect some marshmallow here and there underneath and nothing whatsoever of the base. Primarily spearmint.
I’m not familiar with spearmint in anything except toothpaste and chewing gum, so I can’t claim to find it all that pleasant in other things. So for the life of me, I can’t find the appeal in this blend at all. Neither could Husband, who asked permission to discard.
Had it been peppermint instead of spearmint I think I might have enjoyed it better, but as it is, I think spearmint is just way too sharp a flavour for me in general.
(Seems I’m not having an awful lot of luck with the Christmas box this year…)
Okay, I totally get the concept of various different sorts of cheesecake. I find it an amazingly appealing concept to be honest. I likes me some cheesecake, yes I do indeed, but I’ve only ever been used to a plain white one decorated with a bit of fruit, so actually flavouring one with fruits and whatnots is a whole new concept for me.
I approve, oh yes I do.
Pumpkin? sigh I have had a number of pumpkin flavoured teas in the past, and not a single one of them have actually been something I can look back at and think ‘gosh, how nice!’ Pumpkin flavoured things have consistently had some sort of soapy flavour to it and I’ve never really been able to work out whether it’s a pumpkin aspect or me having had bad luck.
Caramel, however. Caramel is a very positive addition to the mix. Even if the pumpkin doens’t work out for me (again), perhaps it’ll be weighed up by the caramel.
On the whole though, these cake-y flavoured blends aren’t really the ones that appeal to me the most, and therefore it wasn’t that big a deal for me to reach the decision to declare 52teas generally Out Of Bounds. (Note, this has nothing to do with Frank or his company and everything to do with the fact that I consistently get to pay customs and imports fees on his parcels. I imagine this would be true no matter where I the US I bought from, and it’s really annoying to have to pay for my tea TWICE this way. With this Christmas box the fee was actually slightly more than the price of the tea. It has kind of stopped being funny and I’m not made of money.) This Christmas box is the frivolity I allow myself when it comes to this company.
Now, I have to admit I forgot to smell the leaf before brewing but afterwards it gave me a truly bizarre aroma indeed. Mulled wine? Mulled wine! Mulled wine and caramel pumpkin cheesecake has nothing at all in common that I can think of. Husband agrees with me on the mulled wine note and suggests it might have something to do with it smelling of cloves. I find myself rather wishing I had a glass of glögg now…
The flavour doesn’t give me this association, though. At first when it was at its hottest, I got a fair bit of caramel right at the front of the sip, followed by something rather subdued and vaguely recognisable as pumpking, but without that soapy note. What a relief, I thought.
Then the doorbell rang and the cup of tea got a short cooling off period while we dealt with that. It was the cat-sitter who’s looking after Charm and Luna over Christmas stopping by to pick up a key. I’d completely forgotten she was going to come, so I had to search in a mild panic for the stupid key because I couldn’t remember where I put it the last time. I found it though.
So coming back the cup, I find that it had developed a bit as tea are wont to do. Now there’s only a wee bit of caramel, mostly on the swallow, and a WHOLE LOT of soapy tasting pumpkin.
I can’t say I can find anything cheesecake-y in here at all though. Maybe a smidge of something that could be cream cheese, but that’s really it. I wouldn’t have thought of cheesecake on my own at all. Just pumpkin and caramel.
I’m feeling a bit torn as to how to rate this. While it was all hot and fresh and the caramel was the strongest note, I thought it was surprisingly good. At this point where there has been a completely role reversal, I’m less convinced. I think I’m going to give it around 70-ish and make it a compromise between the two.
Okay, the next tea! Again, I was sceptical as soon as I saw the label.
I almost always am when I see ‘Earl Grey’ and it’s not a black base. Earl Grey is a black tea. The end. Any other base with bergamot is simply bergamot flavoured. But then that’s just personal taste, really. And honestly, it’s also splitting hairs. Yes, I’m fully capable of seeing this myself.
Now, in the past I’ve tended to have a rather rocky relationship with Earl Grey or really most anything bergamot flavoured. Often it turns into a grey, dusty, kind of floral and somewhat attic-y sort of flavour for me, although there have been a few exceptions here. The smoky Earl Grey from Kusmi being a famous example. Gosh, that one is Teh Nom!
I also, these days, have a somewhat rocky relationship with white tea. I had a period where Bai Mu Dan was what I kept on hand as Celebration Tea. These days I get mostly a funny sort of squash-y, cucumber-y flavour profile from it which I don’t really care much for in my tea.
So what we’ve actually got here so far is a tea base I don’t much care for flavoured with a fruit I’m not a fan of.
Well. Minus times minus equals plus, right?
Then there is the black currant. I’ve been fairly fond of black currant flavoured tea for as long as I can remember. That flavouring has never really let me down. On top of that there was a black currant flavoured white tea from 52teas that was extremely pleasant. So looking at it this way I’ve got something which I know to be a hit with some bergamot in it.
Actually in spite of my misgivings about bergamot in general, the idea of the bergamot and black currant combination struck me as rather appealing. I would have just felt more confident about it if it had been on a black base, I think.
Now that I’ve gone around and been ambivalent about this whole thing for a bit, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I think it sounds pleasant.
The aroma is fairly close to how I remember that black currant flavoured Bai Mu Dan smelling only with a modicum of citrus added to the mix. Well that’s good enough.
The flavour was really much the same way, only it gave me a number of funny associations. First I thought it had a somewhat floral sort of note to it, but that went away pretty quickly. Then I thought it gave me a funny sort of plastic-y association, but that note did not go away. It stayed and after a few sips I was able to pin point where it was coming from.
It’s chewing gum. Not any particular flavour or kind of chewing gum, but that sort of feeling that you get in the mouth when chewing gum. I think it has to do with how the aftertaste is highly fruity and very long, as though it’s somehow sticky and has attached itself to my tastebuds. It’s like I’ve just been eating a lot of black currant and bergamot flavoured sweets. Winegums, maybe. Something that makes the mouth sticky.
And that brings me back to the base again, because now having tasted it, I still think I would have preferred a black base. This white one seems too delicate for this massive amount of fruit, and a black base might have been able to hold it up a bit better.
I am not having this under the best of circumstances, I must admit, because I made it upon coming home from work. Therefore I am gulping like my life depended on it (which it very nearly does!) and quite forgetting to pay attention. So today’s post might be a little superficial and stuff.
I’ll start with the beginning, namely when I opened the envelope yesterday. After having been sceptical for the first two days, this one finally got my hopes up for something that we would enjoy. Husband has a weakness for almost anything to do with lemon, so I was certain that he would like it. Me, I was struck by how much it smelled like a cross between a lemon surprise pudding and the sort of lemon pudding that my dad used to make when I was younger. (Unfortunately he can’t make it for Husband as gelatine is an important ingredient and Husband being vegetarian. He tried with agar-agar once, but it didn’t turn out very well at all).
After brewing it still has this lemon pudding medley smell. Lemony, creamy and sugary. I was pleased.
The flavour I was expecting was something a lot like these lemon puddings, and of course you just can’t do that in tea. You can get something that imitates a thick, creamy, custardy consistency, but you can’t actually get it. And the aroma was making me want that consistency.
I got over it though. You just can’t always get what you want.
The actual sip gave me initially green tea, then a funny flat note, and then a bunch of lemon-y lemonness. I don’t know what the flat note is. I can’t really describe it as anything else. It was just a feeling of flatness right there in the middle of the sip, like the first bit and the last bit weren’t properly connected. It didn’t make the tea unpleasant in anyway; it was just a bit odd, that’s all.
After the cup had been standing there for a bit and been allowed to develop slightly, the flat note gradually became shorter and weaker and after a few more minutes it was completely gone, so if I had just waited a little longer before sipping the first sip, I wouldn’t even have encountered it.
I always find it interesting how a tea can completely change character just by being left on its own for a few minutes. I’m especially noticing this in green and oolongs. Black teas do it too, but not to the same degree. They’re much more consistent in flavour most of the time.
Anyway, this did indeed live up to my expectations, if not completely then at least nearly, and Husband, predictably, gave the thumbs up as well.
I’m seriously craving a lemon-y pudding now, though! I tried my hand at aforementioned lemon surprise pudding earlier this year because I know it’s a favourite of Husband’s and it was for his birthday. It turned out really awesome (even with the dividing of eggs which is something I normally try to avoid as much as possible), so perhaps one of these days I’ll do it again.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few top secret items to wrap.
Okay, apparently we are continuing in the bizarre section. Smoothies, for me, is not something to do with breakfast. But then again you Americans eat some odd things for breakfast sometimes. For me, a smoothie is an afternoon-y sort of snack food. But okay, I can just disregard the word ‘breakfast’ and think of it as a sort of fruity creamy flavoured tea, right? Right! Suddenly it doesn’t sound so bizarre anymore.
Haha, win! The human psyche is so easily manipulated.
GOSH! This stuff pongs! The entirety of Tea Corner currently reeks of cheap bubblegum and all I did was open the envelope to see what was inside. We’re not actually having it yet, because we just had the cotton candy one, but I opened it now so that I could be sure to see what it was for the first time that way instead of coming at it later when people had started posting about it.
Crumbs, I’m not really looking forward to this one now. O.o
It’s a honeybush base, though, which is not something I’ve had for a long time. I think the last time I had honeybush was that pina colada flavoured one that I didn’t like because of the alcoholic notes and before I discovered the ways in which rooibos can actually be made acceptable to me. By blending it with fruit. Surely honeybush should be acceptable under the same circumstances then, yes? And this time without icky alcoholic notes. That at least sounds interesting.
Yeah, a honeybush with tropical fruits. I can totally do this. I’m feeling much more positive about the prospect of drinking this one now. Maybe I’ll make it after we’ve picked up our Christmas tree.
Well, it turned out that I didn’t make it until today after all so we’re a day behind still. No matter, though. It suits me fine. I made this and served along with breakfast because although it isn’t something with caffeine in it, we normally have a black tea, it was called something with breakfast. So when else should we drink it, really.
Oh yeah and we did pick up a christmas tree by the way. The kitties are curious, but seem to like it. They have never seen a christmas tree before. None of them have tried climbing it yet, but they like sleeping under it and Luna has been beating up a couple of the lower branches. We haven’t got much in the way of ornaments, but we’ve been mass producing paper ones yesterday and for me also this morning, so it’s beginning to look like a christmas tree.
Now on to the tea. After brewing it still smells rather a lot like cheap bubblegum, but there’s a little smidge of banana emerging as well. This, I thought, does not bode well. I do like fruity flavoured teas, but there is a limit. Even for me. On top of that, most of the flavours in this stuff is what I would call tropical fruits, and I haven’t really had much in the way of luck with those in the past. I’ve had a few that were great but many that were just mediocre and generic fruit.
So with some trepidation, I sip the cup and I was surprised at how not unpleasant it was. I thought the flavour was pretty strongly banana and with some of that generic ‘tropical fruit’ underneath. Then there was a note of something sweetly spicy which I attribute to the honeybush base. I haven’t had a plain honeybush in years and years, so I don’t remember any sort of accurate flavour profile for it, but I think it was something along these lines, yes. As it cooled and developed a bit in the cup there was a strong note of citrus emerging in the flavour. Mostly orange, but also a touch of lemon.
It had a sort of thickness to it in the mouth which I think added to the smoothie aspect of the flavouring, but other than that, it struck me as merely a tropical fruit flavoured honeybush. I wouldn’t have had smoothie associations myself, had I not seen the word on the label.
So it’s not bad, but it’s not something I would go out of my way for again.
Husband reports that he too was somewhat pleasantly surprised, although he thought it had a medicinal note to it.
I have looked in the next envelope, the one for today (the 16th). I think he’ll enjoy that one!
We actually had this one late for a number of reasons.
1. As the majority of people on Steepster having this 52teas advent box are on the North American continent, I’m several hours ahead of them. In order to make sure that I don’t spoil everybody’s surprise by having it at a time which is correct for me but way too early for all the rest of you, I have decided to drink on the correct days (or as close as that can be managed) and post with a day’s delay.) Possibly this is silly because someone has to be the first, but there you are.
2. Husband was under the weather and having the first tea of the box, and this flavour in particular, seemed a Bad Idea Indeed. It’s not really the sort of flavour that settles one’s stomach.
I had already peeked at what it was before he came home, so that’s how I knew it probably wasn’t something we should have on that day. I have to say that it suited me quite well to wait a bit. This company does some pretty bizarre flavours sometimes, and I have to say that to me this is one of the more crazy ones. Even now I cannot imagine this as a tea flavour. I couldn’t imagine it being very good, at least. So frankly, I was feeling a bit scared of it.
And do you know what the truly absurd thing is? I love caramel or toffee flavoured tea, so I’m not sure why this, also a sugary substance, seems so outlandish. It’s sort of the same sort of ‘family’, isn’t it?
Well. I thought that it would probably either be horrid or it would be very nice. I hoped it wouldn’t be horrid. I hoped it wouldn’t be totally sugared, because I just don’t do sweetener in tea. For many people a modicum of sweetener in a flavoured tea seems to bring out the flavouring more. I have tried it a few times, but that has never worked for me. All I get out of adding sweetener to tea is astringency. It has certainly never ever EVER made anything ‘pop’ in any sort of desirable way. Even the smoothest unbreakable Chinese black can be ruined completely for me if sweetener is added. So I’m afraid that what I was expecting here was a cup of sugared black. WAY too sugared black.
Even so, I’m trying to keep an open mind here. Keep myself prepared for the possibility of a positive surprise.
Well. It doesn’t smell like candy floss to me. It smells more like marshmallows and dry milk to be honest. Given my misgivings about this as a flavour to begin with, I find this rather reassuring. It makes me think that while it might not actually taste like candy floss to me, at least there’s a chance that it won’t just be black tea with sugar in it. Because let’s face it. Candy floss is nothing but sugar.
After steeping it actually does smell like candy floss. Possibly because it’s hot how. That is to say, it smells strongly of warm sugar.
Sceptical Cat is sceptical.
At least it still has that marshmallow-y feel to it. I’m not a huge fan of candy floss, except when I visit Tivoli in Copenhagen. It’s the only place where I want to eat the stuff and that’s more because of the feel of the place than for the having of candy floss at all. It’s… It belongs there. In other words, I’ve only had a few times in my life and have never been able to finish one off. I can eat maybe half and then I’m done with it. Possibly this is also part of why the flavour in tea strikes me as so absurd. If this had been released on April 1st, I would have wondered if it was an April Fool’s joke. (Although nothing really beats the infamous Tuna Melt Green Incident). But I do like marshmallows and that sort of foamy sweets, so…
Right. Enough with the dragging of heels. I’m going to taste it now.
I’ll count to three and then I’ll sip.
Two and a half…
Two and three quarters…
Tastes… weird. It’s not quite the ‘black tea with sugar’ phenomenon that I had feared, but it’s pretty close. Neither as it candy floss. Even less is it those marshmallows I keep smelling. I don’t know what this is, but it’s not something I’m sorry I missed out on. To me, this is just some sort of generic sweetness, complete with accompanying astringency and stickyness, although not much this time.
I feel I ought to attempt to analyse the flavour like I normally try to do, but all I’m getting here is ‘sweet black tea’. That’s it. That’s all. I tried, I really did.
This was not for me, although I suspected as much already when I saw what it was. At least it wasn’t at all as vile as I had feared. This, although, not really to my tastes at all, is at least drinkable. And I would still rather have this than real candy floss.
Seems I’m the odd woman out on this one.
I’m not entirely on speaking terms with my tummy at the moment. Or rather, it is not entirely on speaking terms with me. That seems to be a trend around Steepster at the moment. I was catching up on people’s posts and there were a number of you that mentioned having tummy troubles.
Luckily Fleurdelily sent me a bag of this stuff in her parcel, so I’ve got me a weapon to deal with it. And I still haven’t got a return parcel put together. Really, it’s getting both embarrasing and ridiculous. At this point, however, I will probably have to say that it has to wait a little while longer, and then I solemnly swear I will have one in the mail before mid-January! It’s all due to Christmas and some other things going on right now meaning I try to be frugal and spread out extra expenses a little bit. (On the upside on that front, it looks as though January will be the last payment on my student loan! YAY! And Husband has just finished paying his as well. Those are some excellent expenses to get over and done with.)
Anyway, I’m having this peppermint tea in order to try and mollify Mrs Tummy a little bit, so I really ought to tell you about what it tastes like and whether or not it’s working.
Gosh! Minty! A bit strong too. And that’s really it. What else is there really to say about peppermint? I honestly can’t think of anything. I’ve been sitting here sipping and trying to analyse the flavour like I do with regular tea, but all I’m coming up with is ‘mint.’ So I’m throwing in the (tea) towel and moving on.
As for whether it’s working, I inhaled as I slurped the first sip, and I could feel that menthol-y feeling all the way down in my esophagus. It’s still there. It feels like breathing in frosty weather. I had a slight bit of acid burn, which seems to be soothed slightly by this, but it’s still there. It’s too soon to tell whether the tummy will become less rumbly, though, but I hope so. We shall see.
As it is, I think soothing the acid burn, even just a little bit, is worth a load of points, because that feeling is really very irritating indeed.
(I really do need to stock up on a few herbs for medicinal purposes. We haven’t got very much of the vile-but-soothing Throat Tea left either, but since that’s only chamomile and licorice root, I expect it’ll be cheaper to mix it myself.)
NaNoWriMo is well and truly over and I made it with 50,010 words at ten minutes to ten last night. The last two hundred words or so were a bit of a struggle but Husband had told me I wasn’t allowed to go to bed until I was finished, so I pressed on. I’ve been unable to get any sort of a decent lead at all, hovering around par all month. Have a look at my stats page to see how close I’ve been! (http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/angrboda/novels/village-on-the-sand/stats) The validator gave me a little less than my other word counter did, but still enough to win, luckily, because my eyes felt like they were full of sand! I can now, with great relief, go back to only 750 words per day and those don’t even have to be novel-y words. They can be anything. This post, for example, counts.
So let’s celebrate this by drinking something I haven’t tasted before, and I chose this oolong from Fleurdelily and I think I’ve found the correct entry in the database. The bag it was in matches the bag on the picture anyway, so I’ve decided it’s close enough.
I’ve been holding off on this one for a while. Not for anything to do with my expectations of it, whether I was afraid of trying it or whether I expected it to be so awesome it had to be saved for later. The real reason is actually as stupid as this; I liked the bag and didn’t want to take scissors to it. There. How’s that for a silly reason? I steeled myself today, however, and am now giving it a try.
The dry leaf smelled wood-y and a bit leathery. A bit like brand new rawhide footwear. A strange association, footwear, but I chalk it up to the fact that I’m breaking in new winter boots which just happens to be made of a rawhide-like material. I think it’s synthetic actually, but they still have that smell. After steeping it’s more wood-y and not a trace of boot to be found. Instead there is a hint of something floral and a good deal of something toasted. Quite nut-like too.
The flavour surprised me. I’m afraid my very first thought was ‘fish!’ and my second thought was ‘but nice…’ so it was all rather confusing and peculiar. Now that it has been standing and developing for a few minutes, however, the fishyness has gone away and left behind something quite pleasant. It has a relatively strong floral aspect, not something I usually enjoy much, but it’s not so perfume-y and unpleasant here. Underneath that is a wood-y sort of note that is just default oolong flavour to me, and again something kind of toasty as well. The aftertaste has a mineral note to it, but not overwhelmingly so. I’m rather enjoying it, and Husband just shouted from his room that he did too.
Very first order of the agenda here, can we all please agree that the country is called NEpal and that there is no such country as NApal? Thank you. This seems a common error, and some people do it with such consistency that it can’t be a typo. NEpal. (Sorry, but it bothers me. I can usually overlook this sort of thing, but certain mistakes just jars the eye. Same with the whole palate/pallet/palette thing. (Hint, on Steepster I can with 99.9% certainty guarantee that you want ‘palate’))
Secondly, Fleurdelily shared this one with me, and I’ve been slightly afraid to try it. I’ve tried a couple of Nepalese blacks before and found them quite Darjeeling-y. But then I seemed to see a lot of good things said about it on Steepster. Claire even had a discussion board subject. So I decided it must be time to be brave.
The leaf doesn’t look like Darjeeling and it doesn’t really smell like it either, although there is a certain note of that Darjeelingesque grassy floralness.
After brewing it smells quite flora, but not in a sharp, pointy way like Darjeeling. There is a sweet, slightly malty note and also a touch of something that reminds me of raisins and other dried fruits. It’s kind of like a much milder version of Assam, rather than Darjeeling-y.
The Darjeeling-y note is there in the flavour as well, but honestly, I would have been surprised if it wasn’t. It’s not as unpleasant as I find it to be in Darjeeling, though. In Darjeeling it’s sort of stabby and pointy and gives me a funky, sour aftertaste, but there’s none of that here. Again it’s mostly like a milder version of Assam with Darjeeling aspects mixed in.
Dooars! That’s what it reminds me of the most.
If you enjoy this, try if you can find something from the Dooars region, and vice versa. Where Dooars leans more towards Darjeeling than Assam, this is sort of leaning in the opposite direction, but it’s still giving me that same feeling of middle-ness.
It’s not my ideal tea (being not Chinese, really) but I’m enjoying it much more than I had expected I would. Very interesting